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India — changing identities

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19.08.2017

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to the media at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, July 17, 2017.

©Manish Swarup/The Associated Press

When India got its independence from Britain 70 years ago this week, on Aug. 15, it was founded as a secular democracy — secular because it acknowledged the status and rights of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other religious minorities as equal to those of the Hindu majority.

Mahatma Gandhi, the great hero of the independence movement, was a devout Hindu, but he was murdered by a Hindu fanatic for defending Muslim rights after Partition.

It was one of the most fortunate assassinations in history, because Hindu radicals had been using Pakistan’s declaration that it was a “Muslim state” to demand that India be declared a “Hindu state.” After Gandhi’s murder, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister, was able to round up tens of thousands of Hindu extremists and exploit popular reverence for Gandhi to nail down India’s identity as a secular state.

India is still a democracy, but a portrait of one of the men who conspired to assassinate Gandhi now hangs in India’s parliament. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, leads the BJP (Indian People’s Party), which was created as the political wing of the RSS........

© The Telegram